Monday 4 January 2010
WHY? WHY NOW? WHAT NEXT?
So, the Malaysian High Court has decreed that the Catholic Weekly magazine can use the word "Allah" in its applications.
The theological and historical reasons for and against the Catholics' claim have been bandied about a great deal before this judgement was made. To many of us, both Muslims and Catholics (perhaps?) it all seems so small-minded, so mediaeval and so, so unnecessary.
Now that the Judaeo-Christian legal system which we inherited from the British has given the Catholic Herald what they demand of this Muslim country - what scenario can we foresee? Does this also mean that all Catholics at prayer and Catholic publications in Singapore, Vietnam, Macao, Hong Kong, China and the Phillipines will be using the A word for God?
This appropriation of "Allah" to describe "The One" is tantamount to an attempt at subverting and undermining the Muslims' psyche and heart whenever "Allah" is uttered.
When I recite my Syahadah "Ashadu an laa ilaha illa (A)llah, wa ashadu anna Muhammada(n) rasulo (A)llah" [ I testify that there is no true god (deity) but God (Allah) and that Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God] I cannot help but visualize Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam using the same assertion of the word "Allah" but which carries totally different concepts and connotations. To me "Allah" is one and "The One". To Catholics He is "The Son, the Father and the Holy Ghost". I do not question the Catholics' concept of the Creator but is it right for them to hijack Islam's one and only word for what is most fundamental and sacred?
Christianity does not have a good track record in working to induce, cajole, persuade, and intimidate others to increase their flock. To commandeer the word "Allah" to their arsenal is unkind and unwise. If this word is so relevant and dear to them, why didn't they apply it right from the time Francis Xavier and the Jesuits and all the missionaries came to evangelize in the Malay Peninsula? Why wasn't this issue brought up during all those pre-Merdeka discussions about citizenship and freedom of religious practice?
Many can see that now the time is ripe to shake the fruits off the tree of Islam - to weaken its roots and stop it multiplying. The world of Islam is at its weakest now and the word 'Muslims' has become almost a distasteful if not a dirty word especially when you add adjectives like 'fanatical', 'extremist', 'violent' and 'oppressive' as the western (and non-western) electronic and print media are wont to do. Muslims are being mocked and chastised in publications and cartoons and the agenda of the "War on Terror" waged by the neo-Crusaders have included harassment of the followers of Islam (the 90% who are not 'terrorists') and left them flailing and reeling. Worst of all they find themselves having to keep on apologising and seeking for approval and acceptance of their beliefs - to the point where they actually lose track of who the perpetrators are. They have been sucked into the neo-Crusaders' snare!
Also at this time, the Malays are at their weakest and the onus is on them to get their act together. The in-fighting and the semi-feudal attitudes which see them selling themselves to the highest bidder is nothing new. My late Abah and his friends were talking of the same weakness and malaise in the 1950s. Talk about laissez faire and individualism - the Malays have been practising this since forever! Our religious scholars on the other hand - like most Malaysian Muslims - are too cosy and snug (and smug) in the comfort zone that Malaysia provides. Their vision of Dunia dan Akhirat (Now and Hereafter) does not go beyond or above their own personal salvation and succour.
In his speech at the start of 2010 Pope Benedict XVI called for respect and peace. Demanding the right to co-opt the word "Allah" in a Muslim nation does not make for much respect or harmony.
In his UN Speech in August 2008, the Pope, amongst other things, said:
"Experience shows that legality often prevails over justice when the insistence upon rights makes them appear as the exclusive result of legislative enactments or normative decisions taken by the various agencies of those in power. When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal. ......Human rights ..must be respected as an expression of justice and not merely because they are enforceable through the will of the legislators".
An Appeal is to be made against Justice Datuk Lau Bee Lan's judgement - a rational, logical step to make. But an appeal undertaken by our religious intelligentsia to the Pope, who is the Catholics' Chief Pastor of the Whole Church and the Vicar of Christ upon earth would not be amiss. There is a lot at stake, not just the rights of Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam and the Catholic Herald. Will their flock be any the weaker or deprived if they desist from using the word "Allah"?
As for the Muslims in Malaysia, they must not react with their usual - to quote the Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan - "uncontrollable outpouring of emotion, (which) end up providing living proof that Muslims cannot engage in reasonable debate and that verbal aggression and violence are more the rule than the exception".
Also in the meantime, our intellectuals and intelligentsia, (where oh where art thou?) should look into the future to locate and pre-empt any other possible rockings of this Boat, this Malaysia - to prepare for "What's Next"!!!!!